If you would like to help groups of young children develop valuable life skills in an environment that is warm, fun, and creative, you might want to become an early childhood educator. The educational qualifications required for this career vary according to state laws as well as the nature of the employer, but in most cases you will need to have completed some study in early childhood education or child development. In many cases, you will also need to obtain teaching certification. A genuine interest in children as well as a patient and cheerful but firm personality can also help you succeed in this job.
While the early childhood period is defined by some as extending from infancy to around age eight, in the US early childhood education is usually thought of as schooling that precedes kindergarten and that fosters child development through structured play. In most cases, each play activity is intended to address specific areas of development. Finger painting, for instance, stimulates creativity, while group building block games promote social skills.
Early childhood education can occur at a preschool or an early childhood learning center. Day care centers that emphasize learning-oriented programs and activities can also be considered early childhood education providers. Those that focus primarily on child care, however, are usually not considered early childhood education centers.
To become an early childhood educator, you will likely need a background of study in childhood education or child development. The exact level of education required for this career varies by the laws of the state in which you wish to work as well as the nature of the individual employer. If you wish to work for a state-funded school, for instance, you will likely need a bachelor’s degree in early childhood teaching. Privately owned early childhood learning centers may only require a minimum of a high school diploma or an associate’s degree. Regardless of this variability, you may find that college-level study of early childhood education will strengthen your resume and equip you with the fundamentals of teaching.
Should you wish to become an early childhood educator in a public school, you will in most cases need to be licensed. Though the licensing process can vary by state, it usually involves completing a bachelor’s degree in education and passing an aptitude test. In some cases, you will also be required to complete a set number of supervised teaching hours.
Before you become an early childhood educator, you may want to examine your personality and consider whether it is suited to the challenges of the job. Working with groups of young children can be hectic. Those who find this career most enjoyable typically have a real enthusiasm for children, can lead groups while remaining pleasant and unintimidating, and are patient and positive.